Owning Mahowny

Philip Seymour Hoffman is blazing a trail through movies. When looking at whole body of work, Hoffman appears to be an incredible actor. He takes a wide variety of disparate roles, and sinks himself into each one. However, when looking at movies individually, a different picture appears. Hoffman's roles tend to be very one-dimensional. This is not to say that he fares poorly, it's just that watching one movie doesn't do justice to his acting ability and range. Recent examples have him as high (Love Liza), psychotic (Punch-Drunk Love), introverted (The 25th Hour) or annoying (Red Dragon). Owning Mahowny is a one-note performance, although that note is strong. Hoffman is Dan Mahowny, compulsive gambler. Owning Mahowny is based on the novel by Gary Stephen Ross, which is based on a true story that took place in Canada in the 1980s.

Mahowny works for a bank, and discovers that by writing fake loans, he can get extra money to put up for bets or to pay back losses. Bookie Frank Perlin (Maury Chaykin, Bartleby, The Art of War) indirectly starts Mahowny's incredible journey by refusing to take his bets anymore at the local horse track. Mahowny owes Perlin a large sum of money, and Perlin doesn't believe he has the money to pay him back. To feed his addiction, Mahowny flies out to Atlantic City, where he literally spends the entire weekend gambling. Weekend trips become the norm, with Mahowny winning and losing huge amounts of money, backed by fake loans. He is borrowing money from inactive and/or large bank accounts, to avoid detection from his superiors.

As the film progresses, Mahowny's addiction becomes worse. He neglects his girlfriend Belinda (Minnie Driver, Beautiful, High Heels and Low Lifes), and catches the attention of casino owner Victor Foss (John Hurt, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone). He cannot figure out who Mahowny is, but believes him to be some rich high roller. Hurt serves as a sort of comic relief to the film. He tries as hard as he can to throw every conceivable temptation at Mahowny, who ignores food, sex, and shows for the joy of gambling.

Otherwise, there is not much to Owning Mahowny. Mahowny grows more brazen as he is able to get away with more, and eventually his shenanigans led to the largest bank case in Canadian history. Director Richard Kwietniowski (Love and Death on Long Island, Actions Speak Louder Than Words) and adapter Maurice Chauvet have Mahowny steadily spiral downward, oblivious to everything else in his life. In a sense, the film is somewhat dull, because there is not enough for the viewer to grasp onto. This can be a very dark film, and there is no redemption in sight for Mahowny. But for Hoffman, it's another job well done. Now he needs to find a role where he can do more than one thing at once.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 47 minutes, Rated R for language and some sexuality.

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